Market on the move

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WIGAN’S indoor market could be moved to a different part of the town centre to attract more shoppers.

Council chiefs today confirmed the shock proposal which could see stalls relocate to the Marketgate end of The Galleries to revive dormant units in the next few years.

The idea was revealed as the authority’s two-year rents and rates battle with stallholders entered a final “who will blink first” battle of nerves.

Traders, who meet later today, now have until Saturday to decide whether to accept new licences built around a 15 per cent rent cut.

But they want double that amount to match, what they claim, are the “more realistic” rents being charged by neighbouring markets.

All are already involved in a partial rent strike because of the difference, they claim, with rents for other North West market stallholders.

But a move to approach individually each trader with a letter enforcing this weekend’s deadline for acceptance has been condemned as “divisive and heavy-handed” by the branch chairman of the Market Traders’ Federation branch chairman Mike O’Connor and opposition Independent councillor Jim Ellis.

Traders must sign up for new contracts by Saturday...or risk possible enforcement proceedings which could see them lose their plots altogether when the two-month notice period ends by February. Council bosses imposed the ultimatum in a private letter to each stallholder this week, seen by the Evening Post.

The market traders claim that their solicitors have advised them that they have “a case in law” about the way the council have treated them this week in setting the deadline.

Coun Ellis said he was now investigating “a number of complaints of harassment” from traders about the way the council has made individual approaches to them about their future.

But head of economic regeneration Susan Gambles said: “In an unprecedented move we are offering the traders, with the new licence, a 15 per cent cut in rents through to 2014, which matches their original request when we first went into negotiations.”